As a sports fan, I am not one to make knee-jerk reactions. Sure, I may routinely toss out a quick f-bomb when the Syracuse Orange play crappy against an inferior opponent—much like Tuesday night's frustrating loss, 67-62, to the visiting Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
I can also be quick to curse out a player for missing a ton of open shot (I am not apologizing Trevor Cooney) or if somebody makes a dumb play late in a game, but when the final horn sounds I tend to spend the next five or so minutes with some high blood pressure then settle down.
Like Syracuse head coach Jim Boehim, I tend to look at the overall big picture instead of a brief snapshot. Now, some sports enthusiasts may call this just being rationale, while others may think I am not being truthful about a current situation.
I call it sports fan evolution: the ability of learning from past experiences and emotions to understand what exactly to do when your team is doing very well, or has hit rock bottom.
See, before my sports writing gigs I used to get really worked up after Syracuse losses. I used to make bad assumptions about the team and where it was headed. Yet, at the same time, get pissed at college basketball pundits for doing the same thing.
However, over the past few seasons—most notably the past three which featured two years covering the team as a media member and a year blogging at the TNIAAM desk in Jan., Feb. and March—I've learned to not hit the panic button too quickly.
That's because, for me at least, I have evolved as a Syracuse basketball fan, as I've learned from past experiences and emotions.
For example, let's go back almost a year ago—March 16, 2013—when I published this piece on TNIAAM.
"Don't get your hopes up, but don't lose hope in this team."
Those were the words I spoke on Jan. 27 near the tail-end of an episode of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Podcast.
That was less than 24 hours after then No. 3-ranked Syracuse lost at unranked Villanova; over a week after the Orange upset then No. 1-ranked Louisville on the road; and in the middle of the James Southerland debacle (and we were all pretty sure he wasn't coming back).
It was before a future loss to Pitt on the road; the impending three-game losing streak, which was sandwiched between a road loss to rival UConn and the embarrassing regular-season finale against Georgetown.
It was before Wednesday's head-nodding, "this is more like it," win over Seton Hall in the second round of the Big East Tournament; Thursday's gritty semifinal victory over Pitt; and Friday's heart-attack creating, historic edging of arc-rival Georgetown.
Like a textbook story arc, the season has been filled with plenty of really high highs and really low lows
After Tuesday night's debacle was over, and I received a tweet from follower Amani Herron, I thought back to this exact piece and thought to myself, "(Self), this is exactly how I feel about this team right now."
At the time of my initial quote—"don't get your hopes up, but don't lose hope in this team"—I remember trying to look at the big picture of the current team. They were shaky, inconsistent but good. Really, freakin' good if they played to its potential.
Also at that time, Syracuse's roster was in flux and it was nearly impossible for them to find consistency when all of its early-season pieces were not in place and everyone was trying to figure out their new role.
(How quickly we forget about James Southerland's and Brandon Triche's disappearance in the final few regular season games of last season: Southerland went 1-for-14 from behind the 3-point arc at one point, while Triche's game was nowhere to be found.)
All last year's team needed was for things to stop being so inconsistent roster-wise and for players to start doing what they did in the previous games that made them a good enough team to beat the eventual National Champions on the road.
So, despite the struggles I stayed guarded (because that's what Syracuse fans do), but, drawing from experience, I knew this wasn't the end for the Orange.
I learned to be more optimistic, from the previous season which featured another talented team that faced nearly the same roster/performance issues. Don't believe me? Here's a piece I wrote in late-Feb. of 2012 for SB Nation New York after the Orange escaped a near home loss to the South Florida Bulls:
In the post-game media room, the rhetoric from Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, who's in the middle of his 36th season, was basically the same as it has been for the past few weeks: we shot poorly (34.5-percent from the floor) and that needs to get better; we had another bad-rebounding effort (41-31 in favor of USF) and that needs to get better; however, in the end we made the big plays to win.
The victory over USF was the fifth consecutive contest that showcased SU successfully clinging onto a 3-point or less advantage with 6 1/2 minutes or less remaining in the second half. Throw out the pull-away victory over UConn almost two weeks ago, and Syracuse has had to hold on to slim leads in the final three minutes of four of those games.
Inside the locker room that day, former Syracuse point guard Scoop Jardine said this:
"For the most part, you all keep nitpicking at whatever we do. We're 28-1, you know?" said senior point guard Scoop Jardine candidly, while sitting on one of the SU locker room couches on Wed. "We just have to win games and I don't care how it looks, just win. In the tournament that's all that matters. Win."
On Tuesday night, after Syracuse's record fell yet again, Boeheim had this to say:
"I'm not happy with tonight, but I'm very happy to be 26-4. I think we're well ahead of predictions," (via Stephen Bailey).
Boeheim: We have an example. Last year we lost 5 of our last 6 and went to the Final Four. And we didn't have an injury last year.— Jeremy Ryan (@JeremyRyan44) March 5, 2014
Meanwhile, the locker room sounded like this:
C.J. Fair: "This season isn’t over. We lost some games, but we’re still in good position." Said winning 2-3 in a row would be big.— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) March 5, 2014
Ennis: "We’ve just got to get everybody focused and get our confidence back offensively."— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) March 5, 2014
Cooney: " Now that we’ve lost and we have that bad taste in our mouths, you just don’t want to have it anymore."— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) March 5, 2014
Of course, every Syracuse basketball journey is different. Jardine's squad went onto finish the regular season at a record clip and made it to the Elite 8 despite missing a key component in Fab Melo, while last year's team did something nobody predicted—make it to the Final Four.
Looking back, both of those outcomes were successful ones, especially when you consider the up-and-down (emotional or physical) aspects of each.
You can make the argument, this current team isn't those teams. Okay, but, this current team isn't the same team it was nearly a month ago when it hung on and beat the Duke Blue Devils, who played out of their freaking minds in a road contest.
This team isn't even the same team that went to Pitt and won without its backup, senior center Baye Moussa Keita.
This isn't the same team because Keita's still not 100 percent healthy and a future NBA lottery pick is on the bench.
Right now, this team is just like the ones that lost to Boston College, or Georgia Tech, or scored 39 points at Georgetown, or lost five of six games after defeating the No. 1 team in the nation on the road, or nearly fell to UNC-Asheville because a key piece was no longer on the team, or is looked down on because it doesn't look like a team led by Anthony Davis.
All this Syracuse team needs to do is find a way to get back to where it was when we all were the happiest fan base in the nation. The Orange have coaches and players to make this happen. Syracuse fans know this because it has seen this program, time and time again in recent seasons, weather some seemingly insurmountable storms.
Also, let's not forget, it is March. Anything can happen in March.